• MSRP: $2,800
  • Weight: 32 pounds
  • Size: Large

It’s hard to get excited about a heavy aluminum bike in the era of featherweight carbon monsters. But Norco’s Optic A2 makes a spectacular case for keeping more cash in your pocket while having just as much fun out on the trails.

It’s not the right choice for an enduro race, or any race for that matter. So what? You’re not a racer anyway. You just want to have fun on the local trails, which are generally rolling with a few tough climbs and some blue-square descents. The Optic A2 has a lot to offer you. It has a lot in common with XC bikes, and enough in common with its larger cousins, enduro bikes, to make it a competent player on rolling terrain, long climbs, and relatively tame descents.

Its suspension travel numbers position it at the tame end of the 29er trail spectrum: 110 millimeters in the rear and 120 millimeters in front courtesy of a Fox 34 Rhythm Float fork. And it rides accordingly, with poise on long grinding climbs and nimbleness over steep, technical obstacles. Riding position feels remarkably balanced.

A 68.5-degree head tube angle is slack enough to let off the brakes on the descents, though its limits can be reached on really techy stuff. And it will certainly feel overmatched if you enjoy catching more than small air.

The build is geared toward reliability. The SRAM NX 1×11 drivetrain punches above its weight class; its shifting performance rivals that of its more expensive siblings. And the SRAM Level T brakes similarly outperformed expectations.

While its Norco siblings capitalize on the stiffness and lighter weight of carbon, the A2’s aluminum frame keeps costs low. That means it’s rugged and affordable, but it’s also heavy at 32 pounds. If you’re on the hunt for your first mountain bike, the Optic A2 is worth a long look.

We hope you enjoyed this online gear selection. For the complete VeloNews Buyer’s Guide, which is only available in the magazine, subscribe to VeloNews, visit your local newsstand, or buy the single issue.